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Waiting Between Not Yet and Not Ever: A Holy Week Reflection

Mar 31, 2015

“Waiting is our destiny. As creatures who cannot by themselves bring about what they hope for, we wait in darkness for a flame we cannot light. We wait in fear for a happy ending we cannot write. We wait for a ‘not yet’ that feels like a ‘not ever’.”

-Lewis Smedes

I do not know what you believe about Jesus and what the Bible records about his life and teaching.

In fact, if you read this blog and you don’t embrace the life and teaching of Jesus, I am grateful. I hope what I’ve shared has been helpful to you.

However, unlike other things I write where my faith is often latent rather than explicit in the piece, this post is inexplicably linked to the life and teaching of Jesus.

The Apostle Paul wrote a letter to the church he planted in the Greek city of Corinth. The letter is recorded in the Bible as the book of 1 Corinthians.

In chapter 15 of that book, Paul makes this assertion.

“And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith…And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people to be pitied.”

-1 Corinthians 15:14, 17-19

As a follower of Jesus, I believe the accounts of the life and teaching of Jesus as presented in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John within the pages of the Bible. I believe God came to earth and made his dwelling among us. We meet God in the form of Jesus within the pages of these four eyewitness account of His life and teaching. These four accounts end with the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus. I believe Jesus conquered death and the powers of evil and darkness when He stepped out of that grave on an early Sunday morning that we now celebrate as Easter.

The Resurrection is my source of hope. Because of the Resurrection, what I see and experience in the here and now can be radically altered. What has been does not always have to be. I believe that since Jesus conquered the power of death and sin that we experience everyday in this broken world, He can bring new life, hope and resurrection to my corner of the world today.

The kind of hope I am praying that you embrace is not merely a “hope in hope”. This hope is rooted in the only thing which pushes back on the darkness, pain and loss that we’ve experienced in the past. The only thing greater than the brokenness, evil and injustice we’ve pushed up against is the Resurrection of Jesus. 

The strength of your hope is dependent on the object of your hope.

As I have studied the importance of the Resurrection, two insights became increasingly clear.

1. The Resurrection is the bedrock of life for any person who follows Jesus.

If Jesus did not defeat death, if he remained in the grave, if he is merely another wise teacher and disappointing revolutionary, then he is another victim of the system, of the institution. “The man” got to Jesus, squelching him.

As Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, if Jesus did rise from the dead, then preaching, faith and hope – it’s all in vain. Followers of Jesus are to be pitied today.

However, if it did happen, then that is something worthy of building a sense of hope on to sustain us, as we push back against the darkness of fear, cynicism and bitterness.

2. Many people live long periods of their lives between the death of something they lost and the resurrection of something new.

For the disciples of Jesus, the time that passed between Jesus’ death on Friday and his resurrection on Sunday must have been an incredible experience. Grief, loss, disappointment, despair – those emotions abounded within their bodies. Emotions that the body was never meant to contain. They did not ever conceive that this Messiah they were following would fall victim to the institutional and political powers that came crashing down on Him.

Unlike us, they were not able to continue reading the story through death to resurrection. They were living the story and those parts had not been lived yet, much yet written. They were stuck, waiting and wondering what would happen next. As they waited, they were disabused of their idealism in a way we may never know.

Most of us live between the death of our idealism and the resurrection of something new in its place.

We live between idealism and hope. In the meantime, we fight battles with cynicism, bitterness, and fear. We stumble and fall, looking for new footings.

As you wait for the joy of tomorrow morning, there will be moments in your life when a “not yet” feels like “not ever.”

Hope may seem like Eastern Siberia – a real place but too far away to comprehend, much less ever reach.

For my friends who are living between Friday and Sunday, between Good Friday and Easter, between death and resurrection, I want you to hear this…

You are not alone.

You are not forgotten.

You have not been abandoned.

Resurrection is coming.

Rest and trust today in what God is working to do tomorrow.

In the spring of 2013, I took a group of young adults at my church to a convent in our city.  Canaan in the Desert swells in the spring as visitors (like our group) use their Stations of the Cross experience to prepare for Holy Week. This convent is a part of an order founded by Mother Basilea.

At one of the stations, there is an engraving with a quote from Mother Basilea. As I was walking through that part of the experience, it grabbed my attention.

“With God, suffering is never the final outcome.”

The quote reminded me of a painting my friend, Whitney, had done during a sermon I gave on the subject of Resurrection. Whitney had begun two very different images on each side of the canvas. She brought them crashing together in the middle. When she was finished with the piece (amazingly, in about an hour), the full picture was visible. As one of our pastors ended that service, it brought him to tears. The painting showed an image of life and light emerging from a storm of deep darkness.

suffering

A few weeks after I visited that convent and read that quote, we celebrated Easter. I preached about the Resurrection. As a take home piece, we gave each person in attendance a card with a picture of Whitney’s painting on it. In the bottom right-hand corner of the card, we included the quote from Mother Basilea.

“With God, suffering is never the final outcome.”

But we added two words of our own. Words you may need today. They’re words on which you can build resolute hope. I pray they encourage you today.

“With God, suffering is never the final outcome.

Resurrection is.”

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